Sayonara: Hong Kong’s Jamie Hood signs with Japanese Top League side Ricoh Black Rams
Scrum-half agrees seven-month contract with Tokyo-based team, but still hopes to be involved in November’s tests as well as next year’s Hong Kong Sevens
Next year’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens remain firmly in Jamie Hood’s sights despite the 29-year-old signing a contract to play with Japanese Top League side Ricoh Black Rams.
The scrum-half headed to Japan in early July to start a “last-minute” seven-month contract after Tokyo-based Ricoh suffered a number of injuries.
“It was only two weeks before I came over that I knew I was going to come,” Hood said.
“They got a couple of injuries to their nines [scrum-halves] and needed somebody to come over just in case.”
Hood jumped at the opportunity to better himself and gain valuable experience playing in a quality league, something that could be very much to Hong Kong’s benefit in the long run.
“I see myself as more of a sevens player and Hong Kong is where I want to play my rugby,” he said.
“I wanted to go and test myself and it’s not very often you get an opportunity like this. But I want to come back when my contract finishes in February and be back in the same set-up I was involved in before.”
Hood, who captained Hong Kong at this year’s Sevens, follows in the footsteps of the likes of Mark Wright and Rowan Varty in making the shift to Japan and feels there could be an increase in opportunities for Hong Kong-based players.
“The more that the game in Hong Kong becomes professional and the standard rises then I don’t see why there wouldn’t be more opportunities for Hong Kong players to get involved in Japan,” he said.
“The size of the Japanese league, and the second division for that matter, surprised me and there is definitely quite a few opportunities that could potentially come up.”
The Top League season began at the weekend, and although Hood didn’t make Ricoh’s round one team as they beat NEC Green Rockets 23-20, he feels he his not far off getting a run even though the players he was contracted to replace have returned to fitness.
He has learnt quickly in his short time in Japan and is already beginning to come to grips with the language barrier and cultural change.
— リコーブラックラムズ (@RICOH_BlackRams) August 29, 2016
“It’s been pretty intense trying to adapt to a new country, a new language, a new team and a new style of play,” he said.
“I’ve played alongside guys that have played at a really, really good level. Tamati Ellison played New Zealand sevens and for the All Blacks and Tim Nanai-Williams has played for Samoa. I’m trying to pick up as much as I can and the coach [Australian Damien Hill] has coached at a high level as well.”
Hong Kong-born Hood moved to Japan with the support of the Hong Kong Rugby Union, despite general manager of performance rugby Dai Rees admitting he will leave a void tough to fill, starting from this weekend’s opening round of the Asia Rugby Sevens Series at Hong Kong Football Club.
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Hood played for Hong Kong 15s side in this year’s Asia Rugby Championship and there is some chance he will be available for Hong Kong’s November tests.
“There is no Top League in November and I know I definitely get the first week off,” Hood said.
“It will be up to Ricoh if they release me. It just depends what they want me to do.”